Pathology

Last week, I had surgery to have a polyp removed from my ovary. Surgery and the recovery have been super easy on my end–very little pain or bleeding. The pathology report, however, is another story.

Ovarian polyps are rarely cancerous so I wasn’t too worried about it. More than anything, I wanted the confirmation that everything was fine so we could get on with our lives. The doctor’s office was supposed to call on Monday but we didn’t hear from them. I called yesterday to check in and left a message for the nurse. She returned my call to say that my polyp showed moderate evidence of precancerous cells. We scheduled the appointments that my doctor wanted for follow up and my next task was to call my husband.

These are not the first precancerous cells that have been removed from my body. Shortly after we got married, I had a mole removed from my arm. The pathology report from that showed precancerous cells and that the margins were involved, which meant I had to have a larger chunk of flesh cut out. I’ve had mole checks regularly since then and everything seems to be fine. While I was a little shook up about the polyp pathology news, given my experience with my mole, pessimistic ideation didn’t set in until I talked to my husband. When I told him, he got that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that comes right before your brain formulates all your negative thoughts about potentially bad news into words. I didn’t get upset until he told me his stomach hurt.

The trouble with finding out this kind of news while you’re at work is that you have to hold it together and not overreact. Yelling, “I just found out I have precancer again! There are more important things in this world than board meeting Power Point presentations!” probably isn’t the best way to go. And not to mention that precancerous cells aren’t cancer and everyone in my office has their own personal battles–some of them I know and some I don’t.

What I did instead of yelling was download podcasts about cancer. As I said before, these are not the first precancerous cells that have been removed from my body. Twice, now, in my thirties, I’ve gone through this precancer diagnosis response. Twice is too often for someone who hasn’t even reached “over the hill” status. I needed some distraction from my thoughts and some preparation for what happens if those precancerous cells ever lose their less-threatening prefix. The podcast I landed on was an interview with Dr. John Kelly on the Chris Beat Cancer podcast.

Dr. Kelly is an advocate for a mostly vegan diet for patients that are fighting cancer. He’s not one of those people that claims you can eat vegan and forego other treatment and beat cancer, though. And while some of the studies he referenced were old, there is significant evidence that a vegan diet could stave off cancer better than a standard American diet. I’ve read about these studies before but hadn’t remembered them until I started listening to the podcast interview.

I’m one of those people who thinks that anything that won’t hurt you is worth trying. I’ve also eaten vegan and vegetarian before and for the past several months I had quit buying beef at the grocery store, figuring that if I couldn’t stop driving 90 miles a day for work, I could cut back on my beef consumption, thus limiting contributions to greenhouse gas productions. It didn’t take much to convince me to go full vegan and by the time I left work, I reached my threshold.

And that’s how, on August 8th sometime between noon and 4:30, I became vegan. Even as I warm up my delicious tofu and refried bean burrito, I know I won’t be perfect. There’s that little bit of fish still in the fridge that I don’t want to go to waste. And navigating in-law politics at Thanksgiving dinner will be annoying. And how I will miss eggs! But on the other hand, I’m not really much of a foodie and fueling my body with things that will contribute to my overall health and longevity is much more appealing than a fast food cheeseburger. And if it helps ensure that I don’t hear the word “precancerous” for a long time, that’s all the better.

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